We left the States four days before the start of the tour and stayed near Dublin. We flew Aer Lingus on the direct flight from Hartford (BDL) to Dublin. It was nice that we could have a friend drop us off at the airport instead of leaving from New York or Boston. Following the RS guidebook recommendation, we stayed in the town of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary). Dun Laoghaire is 50 minutes from the airport using the Aircoach. Our B&B, the Windsor Lodge, was quite pleasant, and about half the price of staying in Dublin center city. It was a good place to relax after the overnight flight. Dun Laoghaire has some good restaurants, and we highly recommend McLoughlin’s for great pub food. Dublin was only a 20 minute DART train ride away, with the station being a short walk from the Windsor Lodge. We spent a day in Dublin and used another guest’s leftover ticket for the hop-on/off bus. The day was completed with a stroll through the Temple Bar neighborhood and a visit to the National Gallery.
On the day before the tour started, we flew from Dublin to Gatwick on Aer Lingus. Instead of taking the train to Canterbury, we booked a car service. The driver was very entertaining, and we had our first cultural connection to Britain on that ride. The car only cost around 10 pounds more than walk-up train tickets via London, and provided door to door service. We stayed at the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge (same as the tour hotel) and had Sunday roast at the Thomas Becket pub.
The following sections of this report covers the tour itself. I will copy the daily itinerary from the RS website and add our own comments for each day of the tour.
Tour Day 1: Welcome to England
Before the tour started, we went to the Canterbury Tales attraction (not on the tour). The exhibits were entertaining albeit a bit cheesy. We had a great conversation with the man working in the gift shop. He even offered us a sample of mead, the fermented honey beverage popular in the middle ages. We also went to the Beaney gallery to take in some local art.
The beautiful medieval city of Canterbury is an easy train ride from central London — and the perfect jumping-off point for our Villages of South England adventure. We'll meet at our hotel at 5 p.m. for a "Welcome to England" get-together. Then we'll take an evening walking tour along Canterbury's colorful lanes and get acquainted over dinner. Sleep in Canterbury (3 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
All members of the tour group had been on RS tours except for two couples. One couple had been on 15 tours! The first group dinner was at Deeson’s. Note that alcohol was not provided on this tour at the group meals. The reason given was that having wine on the table is not customary in England, but it is also true that wine is more expensive than it is on others tours (i.e. Italy, Spain, Portugal). We were not expecting great food on this trip, but the group meals were all satisfactory (with excellent desserts). The tour group sat at one long table, which made it difficult to talk to more than a few people. Other restaurants for group meals had smaller tables.